Franklin Graham under fire for ‘pray for Putin’ appeal

The pastor’s call for peace was immediately met with scepticism and derision from liberals on social media

Graig Graziosi
Monday 21 February 2022 11:57 EST

Related video: Watch live from Maidan square in Kiev amid Russia tensions

Conservative pastor Franklin Graham is facing criticism on social media after he called on his followers to "Pray for President Putin" as the world waits to see whether or not the Russian head of state launches an invasion of Ukraine.

"Pray for President Putin today. This may sound like a strange request, but we need to pray that God would work in his heart so that war could be avoided at all cost," Mr Graham tweeted. "May God give wisdom to the leaders involved in these talks & negotiations, as well as those advising them."

The intent of Mr Graham's message was clear; he was petitioning God to intervene and stop a war between Ukraine and Russia. It is not all that unusual for pastors to pray for world leaders and events, and the Bible even calls on believers to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

While such a tweet may have been viewed as innocuous coming from any other pastor, Mr Graham is a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, and thus attracts the ire of many liberals on Twitter.

The pastor's critics immediately went to work taking shots at Mr Graham, expressing outrage at the idea that he would pray for Russian President Vladimir Putin – rather than Mr Biden or Ukraine – even if it was to call for peace.

"As a Christian, I have always prayed for other world leaders, but I have always and will always pray for the leader of my country before any other," one Twitter user wrote. "You have not once sent out a call to pray for Pres. Biden. You’ve allowed your political position to affect your prayer position."

Evangelist Franklin Graham addresses the Republican National Convention in a pre-recorded speech at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, in Washington, DC, on August 27, 2020.

That user's claim was actually not true, as Mr Graham has called for prayer for Mr Biden in the past.

Another user, going by Christopher Webb, seemed to think the call for prayer should undermine the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's tax exemption status.

User Bigcorbin shared a photo of Mr Graham shaking hands with Mr Putin during a 2015 meeting, asking, "This you Franky?"

While some simply seemed annoyed at the pastor for being who he is, others dabbled in conspiracy theories, accusing him of being a Russian shill or of being the victim of Russian blackmail and coercion.

"US 'Christian' Evangelist Franklin Graham asks that his supporters pray for President Putin today. Pray FOR the mass-murdering Dictator who has annexed Crimea & poised to invade more of Ukraine today?" Author Tomi T Ahonen wrote.

"A fine day to grovel to your overlord$ eh? Get off your knees, charlatan," another user wrote.

Liberal conspiracy theories centered on Russia and the extent of the country's influence over US politics spiked in popularity following the 2016 election, driven in part by popular cable news figures.

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